Ke Kanakolu Mural Project Supports Native Hawaiian Culture

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Ke Kanakolu honors the 30th anniversary of Hawaiian Immersion Education with an arts-education, curriculum-development project that aims to utilize “art as a medium to invigorate Native Hawaiian identity while perpetuating Hawaiian values, language and culture.”​ PC: Nick Smith of Content in Motion

In celebration of Ka Papahana Kaiapuni’s 30th anniversary, The Living Legacy Series has announced the launch of Ke Kanakolu, a project that uses art as a medium to invigorate Native Hawaiian identity while perpetuating Hawaiian values, language and culture.

Since August 2017 through May 2018, ʻĀuna Pāheona, a collective of art-centric individuals, will travel to five islands to engage local artists and Hawaiian immersion schools to design and create 10 murals inspired by the mo‘olelo of Kalapana on Hawai‘i Island.

“Ke Kanakolu was conceived to raise awareness of the 23 Hawaiian language immersion and charter
schools that form Ka Papahana Kaiapuni, as well as the importance of perpetuating Hawaiian language, deepening connection to the ‘āina and fostering the responsibility of honoring ‘ike kupuna,” said Ke Kanakolu Project Manager Mahea Akau.

The story of Kalapana includes his father, Kānepōiki from Kona, Hawaiʻi, and his mother, Halepākī from Kauaʻi, who has the welo ʻohana of hoʻopāpā (a wordplay or battle of wits art form).


Kaua‘i chief Kalanialiʻiloa hears of this hoʻopāpā art form and becomes obsessed with mastering it. In no time at all, he masters hoʻopāpā via Halepāiwi and Halepāniho, Halepākīʻs older brothers, and desires to construct a pā niho (tooth enclosure) and pā iwi (bone enclosure) for his chiefly residence of Kauaʻi.

Eventually, he starts challenging other hoʻopāpā practitioners, including Kānepōiki.

While on Kauaʻi, Kānepōiki loses the battle, and his teeth and bones are used in Kalanialiʻiloaʻs chiefly residence.

When Halepākī heard of Kānepōikiʻs death, Kalapana was left fatherless at a very young age. When Kalapana matured, he desired to avenge his fatherʻs death and travel to Kona to learn hoʻopāpā from Kalaoa. When Kalapana reaches Kauaʻi, Kalanialiʻiloa’s men attempt to fool and trick Kalapana into a death sentence.


However, Kalapana’s wit, tenacity, and love for his land and family prevail; he knows all the winds, rains, plants, songs and ʻai that was unknown to Kalanialiʻiloa.

“This mo‘olelo of Kalapana was selected for the tenacity and drive of the protagonist of the story. The
strife that Kalapana experiences with the loss of his father, Kānepōiki, and Kalapana avenging the will of his father is comparable to Hawaiian language revitalization efforts,” said Ke Kanakolu Hawaiian
Language Director Kamalani Johnson.

Ke Kanakolu began its first mural on Aug. 21, 2017, in Hilo and will continue painting nine other murals one-by-one for the next nine months.

The mural project will culminate on May 18, 2018, in Hāna, Maui.


“For the Living Legacy Series to be truly effective, the work must continue,”said Akau. “Just as our oral traditions find life through constant retelling, the most effective part of our work is in the process. A Living Legacy Series mural is only a glimpse of the real change happening within each community. From its inception, the ʻĀuna Pāheona, lead by John “Prime” Hina, has been raising up a new generation of storytellers, who are adept in the use of modern visual tools, and are empowered by a deep sense of responsibility and privilege.”

The goal of this project is to inspire and empower change in Hawaiʻi communities, and with support from Kamehameha Schools and the Office of Hawaiian Education, this program will create a baseline
evaluation system in language proficiency and curriculum structure that is appropriate and relevant to the Native Hawaiian learner.

About The Living Legacy Series
ʻĀuna Pāheona is a collective of community cultural workers: artists, organizers and volunteers
committed to improving the quality of life for our communities through arts programming. The collective strives to integrate the highest levels of artistic innovation with grassroots cultural organizing for
systemic, progressive social change.

About Ka Papahana Kaiapuni
Ka Papahana Kaiapuni consists of 23 Hawaiian Language Immersion and Charter schools aimed at
perpetuating Hawaiian language—the foundation for Native Hawaiian identity. Ka Papahana Kaiapuni
schools deliver instruction exclusively through the medium of Hawaiian language through fifth grade,
whereupon English is formally introduced.

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